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Yucatecan Tamales (Vaporcitos)

The Salazar’s Yucatecan Tamales recipe 

Before making this recipe, it's important to know a little information about where it originates. Jess and I were born and raised in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. It’s regional cuisine has influences from Europe, the Caribbean, but most importantly ancient Mayan. These tamales  known as  “vaporcitos”  are only  found in our region as opposed to the typical tamales that are eaten throughout Mexico. Although our Yucatecan tamales have the same texture as typical Mexican tamales, the flavor is more rich. We add annatto to the dough and wrap the tamales in banana leaves which gives them a nice aroma and sweet Mayan taste to them. 

We live in Miami now so finding banana leaves is pretty easy. Every grocery store has them in the frozen section by the veggies. If you have a Latin or Asian grocery store nearby, I am sure you can find them there.

For the filling, we like to stuff ours the traditional way with chicken but you can fill yours with: pork, ground meat, eggs, veggies, cheese, etc. Below you can find our recipe to make chicken tamales, but feel free to try them with other flavors!


INGREDIENTS (about 15 tamales)

Corn Dough:

 4 cups of Maseca Corn Flour

3 cups of water

1 cup of lard (this helps with the authentic taste so try not substitute for other oils) 

1 ½ teaspoon of salt 

1 teaspoon of baking powder 

1 tablespoon of Annatto

Ingredients for the filling 

1 ½ pound of chicken (we like to use boneless and skinless thighs)

4 cups of chicken broth

1 pouch of our Red Enchilada sauce 


 One packet of frozen Banana leaves *sub for corn husks if not available. (see notes at the bottom)


For preparing the dough: 

Step 1: In a big mixing bowl mix the corn flour, salt, and baking powder. Add water and continue to mix (we like to do this by hand) 

Step 2: In a pan melt one cup of lard and add one tbsp of Annatto powder mix to combine. (The melting step can also be done in the microwave)

Step 3: Make a divot  in the middle of your dough and add the warm lard and annatto mix. Once the lard cools down a bit, continue to mix the dough until the orange color is spread evenly throughout. Your dough should be soft and easy to mold. 

For the filling

Step 1: In a large pot, over medium heat add your chicken. Pour broth to cover and and bring to boil. 

Step 2: Lower the heat to medium and let the chicken simmer until it’s fully cooked. Then remove from the pot and shred with two forks. (Save the broth as you will need it for a step later on) 

Step 3: For this step, you can use any of our simmering sauces to flavor the shredded chicken and be done with the filling. We like to use the red enchilada pouch and let the cooked chicken simmer on the sauce for about 8 minutes. 

Making the Kol: 

This is a pretty easy step and it will help your tamales stay moist on the inside. All you need to do is grab a golf size ball of the prepared dough and mix it in 1 cup of the broth. It will create a cloudy water that you are going to add to each tamale on top of the filling. 

To prepare the Banana Leaves: Open your pack of banana leaves and cut them in squares about 10 x 10 inch. You’ll notice that the leaves have a stem piece at the top. Cut these from the leaves ( Our family uses them as strings to later close the tamales, but feel free to discard and use cooking string instead) Proceed to wash your cut leaves in the sink and pat dry them. You are all set for assembling the tamales! 

Building the tamales:

  1. Place a handful of the corn masa in the center of each banana leaf  and mold into the shape of a tortilla. The masa should be about a quarter inch thick.
  2. Place about two spoonfuls of shredded chicken in the center of your dough, and pour a tablespoon of the Kol on top. Fold each side of the banana leaf towards the center to close the tamale. (reference video on our IG highlights) 
  3. Wrap closed with the banana leaves and tie with stem or cooking string. 
  4. Time to steam the tamales! We have tried both ways and they come out gorgeous so it's up to choice: 

Instant pot version - If you have an instant pot, place 1 cup of water, the steam rack and your tamales upright. Close the lid and cook on the steam setting for 20 minutes. 

Stove version - If you are using the stove method: In a pot, insert your steam basket and about two cups of water. Make sure the water doesn’t go over the steam basket. We like to cover the basket with some extra banana leaves to prevent the water from going inside the tamales. Then, place your tamales standing upright and cover your pot. Let the tamales steam for about 30 minutes on medium high heat. Check your pot, if it needs more water add some water and let the tamales steam for another 20-30 minutes (you can open one to check if the dough separates/cracks means they need a little longer). 

Enjoy your tamales topped with Zesty Cilantro or for some heat, use the Ghost pepper tamarind or our Habanero carrot. 


1- If you purchase your banana leaves fresh as opposed to frozen, place them in boiling water for about a minute to soften them. Then remove, place on cold water and pat dry. Repeat this step if you are using corn husks and need to soften them. 

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